LOS BANOS -- Two men accused of plotting a staged robbery of an armored car pleaded no contest Wednesday to grand theft charges.
David Martinez, 24, and Alberto Castellanos, 25, were each sentenced to two years in prison as part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors.
Martinez worked for Garda Cash Logistics, an armored car company. Shortly before 10 a.m. on March 30, he was leaving the Wal Mart at 1575 Pacheco Blvd. in Los Banos, when he was attacked by two men.
During the attack he was sprayed with mace. The two robbers and a get-away driver departed in a gold, four-door sedan, with $178,000 in cash and checks.
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A second armored car employee, a 31-year-old man, wasn't injured in the robbery.
Although the robbery may have looked genuine, investigators say Martinez was actually involved in the plot. Within a few days of the robbery, Martinez was booked on suspicion of driving under the influence by the Modesto Police Department, according to Deputy District Attorney David Elgin.
When Modesto police took Martinez into custody, however, he was in possession of $5,000, in increments of $20 bills. Police became suspicious of the large sum, and Los Banos police were informed about the arrest. After Martinez was questioned by Los Banos police, he was arrested for the robbery -- and Castellanos was arrested several weeks later.
Police believe Castellanos acted as one of the robbers of the armored truck. Two other robbers remain at large, Elgin said.
Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby, the prosecutor in the case, said he believes the sentence is fair, particularly because both men didn't have a previous criminal history. "The prison sentence is justified, given the planning, sophistication, depth of the crime, and amount of money that was taken," Colby said.
Martinez's attorney Michael Couglin said he was also satisfied with the resolution of the case. He said the men have also shown remorse for committing the crime. "(Martinez) pled to what I think he should have been charged with," Couglin said.
About $7,000 of the booty was recovered. As part of their sentence, Martinez and Castellanos must also pay back the stolen funds upon their release, Elgin said.
Before the plea deal was made, both men were facing a maximum of three years in prison, Elgin said.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.